Chicago offering free bike ride lessons

Divvy bike share

The Chicago Department of Transportation is expanding its “Learn to Ride” educational program. Interested adults and teenagers can learn how to ride a bike for free.

The COVID-19 epidemic has forced people to seek out safe and socially separated modes of transportation and pleasure, contributing to increased interest in bike riding over the last year. CDOT and its bike-share system Divvy announced a citywide expansion last year, beginning on the far South Side in 2020 and expanding to the Southwest and Northwest Sides in 2021.

“With the growth of our 350-mile plus bikeway network and the ongoing citywide expansion of Divvy, there’s never been a better time to pick up bike riding in Chicago,” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi.

Last year, 3,500 additional e-bikes were introduced as part of the expansion. Another 3,500 are expected in 2021. In 2020, CDOT installed 29 miles of additional bikeways, over half of Divvy expansion regions.

Bicycle riding has also become an alternative to the use of both gasoline and electric vehicles, allowing residents to travel from one end of the city to the other for free or for very little money. CDOT is finalizing installation plans for 2021 but expects to complete about 40 miles of new bikeways in 2021.

“Learn to Ride” Classes

These free bicycle riding classes are funded through its Divvy sponsorship money from the city’s bike-share partner Lyft. It is offered to anyone 16 and older at three West Side locations beginning June 1.

During the two-hour workshop, pre-registered participants will learn how to position themselves when riding in the bike lane and plan the safest routes before beginning on a ride, signaling, and more. The course is designed to provide students a better grasp of how to traverse Chicago by bicycle.

The following are the dates, times, and locations for the 2021 “Learn to Ride” classes:

  • Tuesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Divvy Station at 300 N Central Park Ave at Garfield Park Conservatory: 
    • June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 
    • July 6, 13, 20, 27 
    • August 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 
  • Thursdays, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., meeting at the Divvy Station located at 500 N. Sacramento Blvd. next to the Greater West Town Training Partnership: 
    • June 3, 10, 17, 24 
    • July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 
    • August 5, 12, 19, 26 
  • Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon, at 1401 S. Sacramento Dr. at Douglass (Anna and Frederick) Park: 
    • June 5, 19 
    • July 3, 17, 31 
    • August 14, 28 
  • Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to noon, meeting at the Divvy Station at 500 N. Sacramento Blvd. next to the Greater West Town Training Partnership:  
    • June 12, 26 
    • July 10, 24 
    • August 7, 21 

Advanced Learn to Ride

For individuals 16 and older, who have completed a “Learn to Ride” class and are looking to build confidence riding on the streets of Chicago, CDOT will be offering “Advanced Learn to Ride” classes at Seward Park at 375 W. Elm Street on the following dates: 

  • June 12, 26; July 10, 24; August 7, 21 – from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

To ensure the safety of all, CDC guidelines will be adhered to. SAFE instructors will be wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. Participants are strongly encouraged to wear a mask, and hand sanitizer will be available. 

Adult participants who have pre-registered for the two-hour classes will receive a free helmet, subject to availability. The classes are also open to children with a guardian if space is available; however, children under 16 must bring their bike. Interested participants under 5 feet 3 inches are strongly encouraged to bring their bike, as Divvy bikes are most comfortable for riders 5’3″ and taller. 

Learn to Commute

In addition to “Learn to Ride” and “Advanced Learn to Ride,” CDOT is piloting a new class called “Learn to Commute.” It is for participants who have completed “Advanced Learn to Ride” and are looking to gain experience in bike commuting, especially during times of heavier traffic. It will offer guided rides of five to seven miles from five different locations on the South, West, and North Sides, ending at the Daley Center. This course will focus more on riding during the morning rush. Sign-ups for “Learn to Commute” will open this summer. 

Free use of a Divvy bike is offered to participants, although they can also use their bikes for all courses. Reservations are required and granted on a first-come, first-serve basis for all classes.


There are three ways to make a reservation: complete this Google registration form, send an email to sturner@samschwartz.com, or leave a voicemail at 312-736-2534.

Photo Credit: Jaysin Trevino, Flickr

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